I don’t know who started this “which Best Picture Oscar winners would you like to be imprisoned with for the rest of the pandemic?” torture game (was it Sasha Stone?) but almost all nine groups have at least one stinker or killjoy. On top of which there’s no better way to learn how to despise good films than to watch them under these ghastly circumstances (forced confinement, lethargy, isolation, slow-boiling rage). The ixnays are as follows:
House 1: Re-watching The Artist is out of the question for the rest of my life as well as the lives of my two sons.
House 2: No way will I watch Forrest Gump again. Ditto Chicago.
House 3: 15 years since I’ve seen Crash…I dunno. I could watch Midnight Cowboy and The Godfather, Part II over and over.
House 4: The killers are Chariots of Fire and, to a lesser extent, The English Patient.
House 5: I’ve watched Parasite twice, thanks. I can’t sit through that rainstorm sequence again. The one in which they let the former maid into the home while they’re drunk and off-balance.
House 6: Around The World in 80 Days, obviously.
House 7: Driving Miss Daisy is a no-go.
House 8: It might be interesting to watch Gigi again, but Return of the King is out.
House 9: The top four are great, but Slumdog Millionaire is refused because of that awful game-show host — it makes my skin crawl just to think of that guy.
I watched Sincerely Louis CK last weekend. I was simultaneously okay with it and mildly disappointed. Because it’s mainly about the 53 year-old comedian saying “fuck it…I might as well be even more politically incorrect than ever…why not?” Mildly amusing here and there, but never really funny.
I’d prefer if he ignored the jerking-off scandal and being cancelled and focused more on common challenges, specific episodes, odd tangents and eternal questions. What about the writing, making and non-distribution of I Love You, Daddy?
Friend: “I agree, not as funny as Chappelle. But I’m glad Louis is still defying the mob-think hounds.” HE: “Yeah, I’m glad for that modest fact.”
The Trip to Greece (IFC Films, 5.22 VOD) is the fourth Steve Coogan-Rob Brydon foodie tour flick.
The first, 2010’s The Trip, remains my favorite, in part because the concept was novel then (naturally) and because I love their Michael Caine impressions. I was fairly okay with The Trip to Italy (’14) but it didn’t measure up impression-wise. I somehow missed The Trip to Spain (’16)…sorry.
The Trip to Greece, which has been airing on Sky One for over a month now, is the final entry. Coogan’s Trevor Howard doesn’t quite nail it. I’ve never had a great longing to visit Greece. Why haven’t these guys gone to Vietnam? Talk about foodie heaven.
For years I moaned about not being able to buy a DVD of Carol Reed‘s Outcast of the Islands (1951). Then came a DVD version that didn’t look so hot. Now we have a “a refreshingly new” Kino Lorber Bluray (4.28) that has “depth, superior detail” and a “more layered contrast,” according to DVD Beaver.
I saw Outcast on broadcast TV so many years ago that I can’t remember much, but I have a recollection of something exceptional. If nothing else a serving of atmospheric exotica, it’s about a ne’er do well (Trevor Howard‘s Peter Willems) who doesn’t redeem himself and in fact ends up in a worse place at the end than at the beginning.
The sequence that stands out, memory-fragment-wise, is one in which Robert Morley‘s character (i.e., Elmer Almayer) has been forcibly wrapped into a kind of cocoon-like hammock, and is swinging back and forth with Howard taunting him with a stick or spear of some kind, promising that “I’ll get you next time.”
The story mostly takes place in Indonesia. I don’t remember the particulars. I’ve never read the Conrad book, but I gather it’s a bit grim. Wendy Hiller costars with Morley and Ralph Richardson,. The striking black-and-white cinematography is by Ted Scaife and John Wilcox.
Pauline Kael called Outcast of the Islands “a marvellous film that relatively few people have seen. It’s probably the only movie that has ever attempted to deal in a complex way with the subject of the civilized man’s ambivalence about the savage. It also contains some of the most remarkable sequences ever filmed by Reed; it’s an uneven movie, but with splendid moments throughout.
“Howard is superb as Willems, who makes himself an outcast first through contemptible irresponsibility and through betrayal of those who trust him, and finally and hopelessly when, against his will, he is attracted to the silent, primitive girl, the terrifying Aissa (played by Kerima). Willems is wrong in almost everything he does, but he represents a gesture toward life; his enemy, Almayer (Robert Morley), is so horribly, pathetically stuffy that his family unit (with Wendy Hiller as his wife and Annabel Morley as his child) is absurdly, painfully funny.
“With Ralph Richardson, whose role is possibly ill-conceived, and George Coulouris, Wilfrid Hyde-White and Frederick Valk. The screenplay is by William Fairchild.”
If and when the 2020 Cannes Film Festival happens sometime in July…you tell me. I’m presuming it’ll be under-attended by U.S. journalists, and perhaps across the board. I’m honestly not sure if I can fit it into the schedule at this point, or if I want to.
From Indiewire‘s Eric Kohn: “Reached for comment at his vacation home, festival director Thierry Fremaux was both defiant and practical. ‘If Cannes is canceled, Cannes is canceled,’ he said. ‘We’re all facing a strong situation and we’ll fight until the last minute. If it’s not possible to have Cannes in 2020,[then let’s] rendezvous in 2021. I already can tell you that it will be something to be there all together again. The Mediterranean Sea is waiting for us.'”
Linda Tripp, the rightwing harpy who all but singlehandedly plunged this country into a tawdry, tedious and throughly idiotic impeachment episode in the late ’90s, has died of pancreatic cancer at age 70.
Tripp earned her infamy by surreptitiously recording conversations with Monica Lewinsky, who of course was the White House intern who ignited this ignoble episode by revealing she’d had a non-Biblical affair with President Bill Clinton, and passing them along to her Republican pallies.
Often described as “the most hated woman in America,” Tripp long maintained that she betrayed Lewinsky out of “patriotic duty.”
Wiki excerpt: “Eventually both Clinton and Lewinsky had to appear before a Washington, D.C., grand jury to answer questions, although Clinton appeared via closed circuit television. After the round of interrogation, the jurors offered Lewinsky the chance to offer any last words. “I hate Linda Tripp,” she said.
And I say this having watched Gladiator two or three times during the 2000 Oscar season, and once on Bluray. I’m just done with it. Never again. I can’t tolerate the idea of sitting through Joaquin Phoenix‘s performance as Commodus — demonically boring, evil for the sake of evil, the Shallow Hal of villains.
Russell Crowe was once that thin, of course, but it’s hard to believe this now. When I think of his performance as Maximus, I think of two lines — “Are you not entertained?” and “The harvest, the harvest, the harvest.”
I didn’t care for the battle against the Germanic tribe in the beginning. I didn’t like the herky-jerky process used during the action sequences. I didn’t much care for Connie Neilsen‘s performance, nor Richard Harris‘s or Djimon Honsou‘s. The only things I really admired were (a) the CG reconstruction of the Colisseum, (b) the Colisseum battles, (c) Derek Jacobi and (d) the CG reanimation of the deceased Oliver Reed.
Which Roman epics would I would watch again? Almost any besides Gladiator. Anthony Mann‘s The Fall of the Roman Empire (’64), which tells the same story minus Maximus. Joseph Mankiewicz‘s Julius Caesar (’53). Stanley Kubrick and Kirk Douglas‘s Spartacus (’60). The BBC’s “I, Claudius” series. Any of them.
With Bernie Sanders finally acknowledging what has been patently obvious since Super Tuesday, which was that he had no chance to win the Democratic nomination, “just under 20%” of the Democratic base (including the deeply despised Berniebros) is now free to do whatever. Some will bitterly or half-heartedly vote for Biden in the fall, some will become Trump supporters, some will attempt to spark a third-party movement.
For a very brief period, just after New Hampshire and Nevada and prior to Super Tuesday, victory for the Sanders campaign seemed inevitable. But that phase quickly ended when the Democratic establishment strongly urged (i.e., ordered) Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar to suspend their campaigns. And then Elizabeth Warren bailed in early March.
All along Sanders’ vision and platform have always been the most correct and courageous, but he never had the numbers to defeat Trump.
The passion of the Sanders flock has always been two-pronged — mostly defeating the Democratic center-left establishment and secondarily (and a distant second at that) evicting Donald Trump from the White House. They’re now free to pour all kinds of insurrectionist bile into the social gumbo. For the next few months they will take shot after shot at decent, well-meaning Uncle Joe, who will only serve a single term (everyone understands this) while paving the way for Gavin Newsom or Andrew Cuomo in ’24.
From “Bernie Sanders Only Has Eyes for One Wing of the Democratic Party,” a 4.8.20 N.Y. Times piece by Thomas B. Edsall:
“Earlier this month, Shom Mazumder, a political scientist at Harvard, published a study, ‘Why The Progressive Left Fits So Uncomfortably Within The Democratic Party,’ that analyzed data from a 2019 survey of 2,900 likely Democratic primary voters.
“‘I saw two clear poles emerge within the Democratic Party,’ he writes. “The ‘establishment’ and the ‘progressive left.’ A third group also emerged, and while it’s not as clearly defined as the other two, it has some overlap with the establishment and tends to be more fond of Wall Street, so I’m calling that ‘neoliberals.’
“’Establishment’ voters, in this scheme, means center-left voters who make up just over 60 percent of the total. They stood out as favorably inclined to Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Barack Obama and the Democratic National Committee — in other words, to the Democratic establishment.
“’Progressive left’ Democrats, at just under 20 percent, were most favorable to labor unions, Black Lives Matter, the #MeToo movement, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Democratic Socialists of America. These Democrats viewed business interests — as exemplified by Wall Street — negatively, and they weren’t happy about Joe Manchin, the centrist senator from West Virginia, either.”
The roundish, Newark-born character actor Allen Garfield has passed at age 80. Steadily employed for 35 years or thereabouts, Garfield (briefly known as Allen Goorwitz) peaked in the ’70s — the highlights were Bananas, The Candidate, The Conversation, Nashville, Gable and Lombard and The Brinks Job.
Garfield’s most charismatic performance was as “Klein,” the political advertising guy in Michael Ritchie‘s The Candidate (’72). Second best was Bernie Moran in The Conversation; Vinnie Costa in William Friedkin‘s The Brinks Job is in third place. Others?
The poor man was sidelined after suffering a stroke in ’04.
From Owen Gleiberman‘s 1.31.20 review of “Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind” (HBO, 5.5): “Robert Wagner acknowledges that [he and Natalie] had quarreled earlier in the evening, which is hardly incriminating. But in the documentary, he also tries to explain away tension between himself and [Wood’s Brainstorm costar] Chris Walken — and does so by recounting an exchange the two had about Wood’s career, in which Walken said he thought Wood should be working more, a suggestion Wagner balked at. Wagner felt that Walken needed to mind his own business.
“But then Wagner says something that surprises us: During the argument with Walken, he got so annoyed that he smashed a wine bottle on the table.
“That’s a confession of major anger, one that can’t help but give us pause. The film then mentions the fact that the case was reopened, in 2011, after Dennis Davern, the yacht’s captain, said he’d originally lied to the police; the new scenario he presented claimed that Wagner was responsible for Wood’s death. The law has rejected that scenario, with Wagner, in 2018, having been named as a ‘person of interest’ in the case. Which is not the same thing as a suspect.
“But the 2011 developments raised more doubts about the basic question of what had happened, and the documentary, in not interviewing Dennis Davern (or exploring his version of the events), leaves the audience hanging.
“All of this can seem tasteless and macabre. Yet I think one of the reasons that Natalie Wood’s death still haunts us — and that we almost need a conspiracy to explain it — is that on screen, though perhaps not quite a great actress, she was always such a life force. She made you feel something, because her own feelings were so vivid. She was the movie star as open book, with her own saucy splendor.”
Wood’s best performances (in this order): Inside Daisy Clover, Splendor in the Grass, This Property Is Condemned, Love with the Proper Stranger, West Side Story, Rebel Without a Cause.